Naughty Little Kids is a family-run goat dairy with a herd of around seventy adult goats and forty kids, guarded by a maremma sheepdog. The goats are free to roam the paddocks and graze on grass, and they also enjoy munching locally grown fruit and veg — especially watermelon. They love watermelon! Nathan Jackson and his parents produce naturally flavoured, creamy gelato and award-winning goat cheese. (www.naughtylittlekids.com.au)
Why did you begin farming goats?
A long time ago, my brother used to make cheese. Initially, he was doing cow’s milk cheese, then the GFC hit and, suddenly, cheese was that luxury item everyone could scratch off their list. He needed to find a niche because he couldn’t make feta anywhere near cost-effective for the people who go, ‘I can just go down to the supermarket and buy a block for $3.’ I started looking around and someone said to look at doing goat’s milk for the health benefits. We decided to go with goats, but unfortunately things didn’t turn around quickly enough for him, so he shut down the business on his side a number of years ago. He’s now a registered osteopath down on the Gold Coast. However, Dad really liked goats because they have a lot of character and when they kick, it isn’t anything like a cow. He was happy with that and he just loves animals.
So, your mum and dad are farmers?
Pretty much. Well, actually, Mum is a registered herbalist and naturopath, and Dad is a retired chiropractor and osteopath. He really just ran his clinic to pay the bills and fund his farm. He grew up in Lamington on a dairy, and he just loves animals. So, he has been steadily growing the herd, and then three-and-a-half years ago, we bought this place and came over.
You milk the goats twice a day?
At the moment, we milk once a day in the mornings. After the goats kid, we milk them twice a day.
So, what does an average day look like?
They are long days. We usually get up when the sun gets up, so in summer, waking up just after four, but in winter, we get to sleep in a little bit longer. We milk, and after that come in for breakfast, then I usually do computer work or paperwork, and then sometimes it involves deliveries, sometimes making the items, sometimes tweaking recipes. In the afternoon, usually about four o’clock, we start milking again. It takes about one-and-a-half or two hours to milk. In summer, you can be doing a fourteen-hour day.
What are the health benefits of goat’s milk?
There’s A2 and a lower amount of lactose. A lot of people who are non-lactose can actually have goat’s milk. It is also higher in calcium, potassium, vitamin A and vitamin B6.
With my parents’ background, we were brought up to try to help people be as healthy as possible. I always try to recommend things and tell people, ‘Maybe you should try goat’s milk.’ I do not sell goat’s milk myself. I say, ‘Look, go to your health food store, try it and see.’ With milks like almond milk, any calcium and so on has to be added in. I don’t know from where they’re extracting the calcium or if it is an artificial thing. With the goat’s milk, it is all naturally produced and it is easy for the body to digest.
Do you make the gelato here, on the farm?
Yes, in the factory. It took us a long time to work out a recipe. Traditionally, gelato is made using eggs and we ended up deciding that, because if someone has one allergy they tend to have a second one, we’d make our gelato gluten-free, egg-free and nut-free. Making it egg-free was hard, but we found in Sicily they make their gelato without any eggs, so they add a starch — tapioca, rice flour or corn flour — and cream. We add tapioca, a stabliser and extra sugars. It is a low-fat gelato. Then we add flavours, like chocolate, coffee, strawberry, mint , vanilla — all natural flavours and colours. The strawberry flavour, for example, is from strawberries we buy around the area. We make a strawberry jam and put that through. We do that, then add a little cochineal extract to get a bit of colour.
What are the most popular gelato flavours?
With children, it is chocolate, hands down, every time. Every so often, you’ll have one who likes vanilla or strawberry, but it is pretty much chocolate. For adults, it is usually coffee or mint. Strawberry — one week you will sell a lot of strawberry, and the next, you’ll sell one. Vanilla — it is at the bottom, but it is constant. You’ll always have people that like vanilla.
Where do you sell your products?
Most of it is sold here, at the farm.
We first started selling to the public at the Winter Harvest Festival last year. I must admit, our recipe has changed a reasonable amount since then. We got rid of a lot of the iciness and now it is creamier.
One thing I get is, if you give people samples, they stop and they have this really pensive look on their face. I ask, ‘What are you thinking?’ And they say, ‘Oh, I am just trying to taste the “goatiness” in it.’ Now, I know there is no “goatiness” in it. People have an idea that goat milk will taste like a billy goat and have a strong flavour. They have never tasted goat milk in their lives, but they’ve heard this on the grapevine so they have this expectation. I grew up on raw cow’s milk and it tastes exactly the same as raw cow’s milk.
When we do farm tours, I give people samples of the goat milk to try. Very rarely do I have people say, ‘I don’t like it.’ Usually, it is little children, who are just saying that because they’re little children, and half of them don’t like milk anyway, you find out. If they are adults, you find they’ve had a bad experience when they were younger. It is just all in their mind. That is our biggest hurdle.
The other hurdle is with health food stores. They say, ‘Well, you still have lactose, whereas coconut milk and almond milk don’t have any lactose. We only have so much shelf space. We are just going to have those.’ So, in the health-food arena, that is my issue. Saying that, I get people who come along to the farm, who can be allergic to coconut or they are simply tired of eating everything that is coconut-flavoured. So, I know there’s a place for goat products.
Tell us about your cheese.
The recipe is one my brother came up with years ago. He called it Stenby. The closest thing to it is an Eastern European Brynza. It is basically a farmhouse-style cheese. How it goes is, in Eastern Europe, the herdsman would be up in mountains with his sheep or his goats, and he would milk them up there but he’d be too far away from his dairy co-op to get the milk straight down, so he would make a basic cheese or curds, and then hang them up. A few days later, he’d go down to the co-op, give the curds over to them, they’d break the curds open and put salt through them, put them back in a mold, let that set and then they would brine again afterwards. We have the same thing. We just use rennet; we don’t use a culture. We bring it together, put it in the mold, we dry salt it afterwards and put it back in the mold again to allow it to set and that’s it. You really get the flavour of the milk.
We typically do a one-kilo wheel. A mentor of mine — his name is Joseph Zehnder and he started Zehnder Gluten Free up in Maleny — he told us, when growing up, he had a very similar cheese, and they used to put balsamic vinegar, olive oil and cracked pepper on it. He loved it. Our friends, who are Romanian, love eating it with sour cherry jam. They prefer it to be only lightly salted. They’ll have it for dessert and eat a whole wheel in a night between just two people.
Will you make any other style of cheese?
We may make a camembert in the future. When my brother made his camembert — he had to call it French-style because you cut it and it runs out, and Australians aren’t used to that — so he used to make the cow’s milk. Then, he made his first goat’s milk camembert. Oh, my goodness. It was amazing. The same recipe; he just changed the milk. I try to explain to people, whatever properties the cow’s milk variety has, goat’s milk amplifies it. If it was a little tart with cow’s milk, it tends to be very tart with goat’s milk. With the camembert, his cow’s milk camemberts were nice, but the goat’s milk took it to a whole new level.
What do you like about living in the region?
Here, we know our neighbours and we have a lot of people around. We say, ‘How do you do this?’ and everyone says, ‘Yes, we can help you.’ Everyone understands. They know how it is.